In today’s society it is often expected that people are constantly dieting. Some might even say it’s “weird” if you aren’t on one. A diet may start off with positive intentions (losing a few pounds, getting cholesterol under control, feeling more energetic), but spiral to a place where the diet is no longer serving its original purpose.
When the diet plan you are on becomes stressful, unrealistic, and obsessive it may be time to hit the pause button on it. Taking a break from dieting can be great for your mental health, and in turn your body will thank you. The constant rollercoaster and stress caused by restrictive diets (which often lead to overeating) tend to do more damage than simply listening to your body and fueling it in a way that feels good.
If you can relate to any of the following, it may be time to take a break:
1. Your weight consistently fluctuates.
Some might call this the “yo-yoing.” You might hop from one diet to the next thinking you just need to try something different. This can cause stress to your body and you may actually retain excess weight.
If your weight is constantly going up and down it may be a sign that the diet you’re currently on is not working for you. With weight fluctuation you might start bashing your body, beating yourself up, or thinking something is wrong with you that you can’t stick to the diet. Getting back to the basics like listening to your body and eating in a way that makes you feel good is key to maintaining a consistent body weight.
2. You are constantly thinking about the foods you can/can’t have.
Find yourself wondering what you can eat later? How many calories you’ve already consumed? If you can enjoy your friend’s birthday cake?
When your mind is overwhelmed with diet stress there’s less room to be present and engaged with the ones around you. Important events and situations are spent with the constant food noise in the background. If this is happening for you, it might be time to change your mindset with food and move away from dieting. Remember, life is meant to be enjoyed (and that includes food).
3. You have a long list of rules.
Your diet may have started with a simple rule such as; consume 1800 calories per day. After a little while of dieting, though, you may end up with a huge array of foods you “can” have and foods you “can’t.” Some might include:
- No eating after 7pm
- No sugar except 1 piece of dark chocolate
- Only snacks can be almonds
- 2 workouts per day
You get the point. Trying to keep track of those rules can leave you feeling stressed, bogged down, deprived, or like a failure (because how can you possibly adhere to all of those?). These feelings actually lead us to overeating on food because the moment you break one rule, the all or nothing mindset takes over. If this is happening for you, it’s time to slowly get rid of these rules.
4. You find it hard to enjoy life.
Spontaneous adventures, parties, and vacations cause you stress because you can’t eat in the way you want to. This is no way to live. If you’re feeling like you can’t enjoy these moments, then it might be time to take a step back from your diet.
Remind yourself gently that food can be a part of life, but doesn’t need to be your whole life. In order to be engaged and present with friends and family, you may need to take a break from your diet anxiety and enjoy a meal with the people you love.
5. You have an overwhelming fear of weight gain.
When you wake up in the morning and your first thought is, “Have I gained weight?” Stepping on the scale frequently and letting that dictate your mood and attitude for the day could be a red flag that your diet is taking up too much space in your mind.
Instead, checking in with how your clothes fit and feel can be a gentle way to stay in touch with a healthy, natural weight that’s right for you. When we check in with our bodies and listen to them, it’s easier to maintain a fit body.
6. You feel deprived or limited.
If you are constantly feeling deprived or limited due to your diet plan it may be time to step away from it. Food is meant to be enjoyed and savored. Allowing yourself to enjoy the foods you love helps you find a place of balance and moderation with all foods. This leaves you feel less deprived and more successful (instead of having to sustain an extremely restrictive diet).
With this, you may find that the controlling diet rules and thoughts start to fade away so you can free up space in your mind for fun, peace, and enjoyment.